Morton will start opening day against the Blue Jays

The Rays are slowly getting healthy and getting some key pieces back with the season opener less than one week away.

Outfielder Austin Meadows who has been seen at Tropicana Field the last few days was put on the DL by the Rays as he recovers from COVID. Meadows is just waiting to be cleared and hoping to be ready to play in the opener.

If Meadows cannot go, that could pose a problem for the Rays as Meadows was the primary leadoff hitter last year. If Meadows is not ready by opening day, the Rays do have other options at the leadoff spot.

Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, and newcomer Yoshi Tsutsugo could fill in until Meadows is ready.

Today infielder Jose Martinez made his return to practice as he tested positive for COVID.

That leaves outfielder Randy Arozarena, pitcher Brendan McKay, and pitcher Yonny Chirinos as the only Rays players who have yet to practice extensively with the Rays.

Martinez said that he suffered no major symptoms with the diagnosis outside of having cold and flu-like symptoms. Martinez hopes to be ready to play when the season starts on Friday.

Kevin Cash also announced today that Charlie Morton will get the opening day start. Morton went 16-6 a year ago with a 3.05 ERA. Morton finished third in the voting for the Cy Young award.

Cash also the Rays will start with 16 pitchers on the roster while they build up their endurance and will go with 14 position players.

This past week, the Rays experimented with fake crowd noise during an intrasquad game. Most teams will use this fake crowd noise as no fans will be allowed at the stadiums.

Kevin Keirmaier didn’t seem to mind the added noise. “I liked it. It’s a lot better than just silence throughout a ballpark. That’s not what we’re accustomed to. I liked it. Overall, we were very pleased with it, and hopefully, it continues, because we want to make this like a ballgame for a normal day at the ballpark, given our situation. I hope it plays out and they keep pumping in that crowd noise. It was fun.”

All of the sports leagues the NHL, NFL, and NBA will pump fake crowds into their arenas and stadiums as they try to create a realistic atmosphere for the players.

Catcher Chris Herrmann who was in camp with the Rays on a minor league deal asked for and was given his release. Herrmann had almost no chance of playing as he was stuck behind Mike Zunino, Michael Perez, and Kevan Smith.

The Rays also have one of the top catching prospects in baseball. Ronaldo Hernandez is on the 60 man roster and is working out with the Rays in Port Charlotte.